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Publication Date: Friday, October 05, 2001
TRANSPORTATION

Dumbarton proposal raising hackles Dumbarton proposal raising hackles (October 05, 2001)

Palo Alto officials say extension would create more traffic

by Geoff S. Fein

A proposal to build a southern extension to the Dumbarton Bridge through the Palo Alto Baylands is once again being met with alarm and disdain by Palo Alto city officials.

City officials say a connector to the bridge would also impact traffic on Palo Alto streets that are too congested already.

Joe Kott, the city's chief transportation official, will present a report at Tuesday's City Council meeting.

The Dumbarton Bridge extension is one of many proposals addressing congestion on bay bridge crossings contained in the 2000 San Francisco Bay Crossing Study written by Korve Engineering and presented to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. This particular proposal has been kicked around for about 15 years, Kott said. City officials have been consistent in their opposition to the extension.

During morning commutes there is a steady stream of traffic on the west end of the bridge in East Palo Alto, said Mayor Sandy Eakins.

"That (traffic) inundates East Palo Alto at all hours, but it is especially bad at rush hour," she said.

She has been opposed to the plan because the extension will go through bay marshland, but she acknowledges the impact it will also have on Palo Alto traffic.

"Think how Palo Alto people will feel about Dumbarton traffic directed to Embarcadero," she said.

Other ideas being proposed include building a second level to the bridge and special on-ramps for vehicles with two or more passengers. The 84-page conceptual report, however, only commits one page to the Dumbarton Corridor. There are also several maps showing various proposals to decrease traffic on the Dumbarton Bridge. But it is the map showing the extension - which would run from the bridge across portions of East Palo Alto, Palo Alto and the Baylands and finally hooking up with Oregon Expressway -- that has city officials worked up.

"Any alignment would cross sensitive lands," Kott said. "There is no way around the Baylands."

Kott added the on- and off-ramps at Embarcadero Road and U.S. Highway 101 are already strained. University Avenue, Embarcadero Road and the Oregon Expressway may not be able to handle any more traffic, Kott said.

There has to be a more detailed discussion of where the flaws exist in the proposal, Kott said.

"All they have so far is a map drawing," he said. "There's no discussion of the capacity on local streets or 101. The big questions are left unanswered."

In 1989, a draft report estimated the cost for the extension at $44 million.

Kott is also worried that increased traffic on University Avenue, Embarcadero Road and Oregon Expressway could spill over onto residential streets.

"We are fearful of gridlock," he said. "We'd have our doubts about any solution that piles on more traffic."

The extension could also impact the Tom Casey baseball field and the golf course along East Bayshore Drive, Kott said.

The council was so worried about these plans they created a policy to deal with the bridge extension. Policy T-53, in the city's Comprehensive Plan, states the city would "participate in seeking a regional solution to improved roadway connection between Highway 101 and the Dumbarton Bridge without construction of a southern connection across environmentally sensitive baylands."

Eakins and Council members Vic Ojakian and Lanie Wheeler, wrote a memo to their colleagues reminding them of the California Streets and Highway Code section 409, which states "no study and analysis of any proposed segment of 109 shall be conducted without the involvement of the governing body of any city or county through which the segment would pass as an active participant in the study and analysis."

"Notwithstanding this state law, the southern connection has resurfaced in the Bay Crossings with absolutely no consultation with Palo Alto," the memo states. "This is cause for great concern."

Eakins, Ojakian and Wheeler asked for the full council to direct staff to investigate the background of this new study.

E-mail Geoff S. Fein at gfein@paweekly.com


 

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